System failed 11-year-old shocked by police Taser in B.C.: report
British Columbia Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond pauses during a news conference after releasing her report on children with special needs in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday June 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Published Thursday, February 7, 2013 9:50PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 7, 2013 10:02PM EST
Massive failures within British Columbia’s child welfare system left one boy open to years of abuse and neglect before RCMP shocked him with a Taser, a report says.
The investigation finds 22 critical injury reports involving the boy, including one that made national headlines after he was hit by the stun gun in 2011 at the age of 11.
The boy, now 13, was born into an environment of domestic violence, alcoholism, starvation and neglect, according to the report by B.C.'s children's representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.
The boy entered into the care of the Ministry for Children and Family Development in 2001 and was subsequently moved 15 times, even though he was averse to sudden change.
According to the report, "Who Protected Him? How B.C.'s Child Welfare System Failed One Of Its Most Vulnerable Children," the boy was left open to further abuse and neglect in the various homes the ministry placed him in.
In one home, his caregivers locked him in a shed. In another he was punished with cold showers for wetting his bed.
The report details how the boy had frequent violent rages, becoming at times so uncontrollable that police had to be called.
In some placements the boy was often isolated in a “safe room,” even though there is no legislation or policy permitting this practice, and seclusion in a locked room has repeatedly re-traumatized him, the report says.
During some violent episodes the boy was taken to hospital for tranquilization.
The report describes several years of violent incidents: in a June 2007 incident, he bit, hit and clawed at his foster mother. Later that year he had to be removed from school after hurting two employees. In 2008, he broke down two doors, destroyed a wall, and hit and injured care staff.
In early 2010, he punched through the walls of a safe room and had to be restrained by three police officers before being transported to hospital. Days later he pulled a door from its hinges, broke it and punched through the walls.
According to the report, staff “reported to his social workers that when he was raging, he was so strong they could no longer physically restrain him when it was necessary to keep him safe."
The report states the Taser incident occurred in April 2011 after the boy locked himself in his bedroom and jumped out a window. He was spotted shortly after stabbing at walls and upholstery with steak knives, and he subsequently stabbed the group home manager. Police were called and the boy was shocked by a police Taser after a standoff.
The report found that the incident, and indeed most of the 22 critical injuries reported, could have been prevented had the ministry invested in a proper residential care system with trained and qualified staff, behaviour therapy and other supports.
The ministry failed to provide the child with his basic rights to safety, education, health care, socialization and cultural identity, the report determines.
“This case is among the most difficult we've reported on, but sadly it is not the only one in which a safe and therapeutic residence has been unavailable for a child in care who has complex special needs,” Turpel-Lafond said.
“In this child’s case, it was clear that decisions were made for bureaucratic reasons or to manage a crisis and not in his best interests,” she added.
Turpel-Lafond makes four recommendations to the ministry including: creating a residential service program for complex needs children who cannot be cared for in traditional foster home or group home settings; implementing a system of senior management oversight for children with complex special needs; developing an internal clinical unit to deliver proper training and support to residential care staff, social workers and policy makers; and immediately discontinuing the use of isolation and restraint as behaviour management strategies for children in care.
Children's Minister Stephanie Cadieux said she was heartbroken and disappointed by the findings and will implement the recommendations. She added that the ministry is working to open a new six-bed facility to meet the specific needs of children with complex needs.
The boy is now in government care.
With files from The Canadian Press